Friday, March 03, 2006

Liverpool Preview

A tough task looms for the Addicks this weekend, away to the European Champions. A team who we recently disposed of 2-0 in SE7, but are likely to be an entirely different proposition on their own patch.

Liverpool’s home record this season is second only to Chelsea’s. They have taken 35 points out of the 42 available so far this season at Anfield, and they have conceded an average of only 0.3 goals per game during that run. The only team to go to Anfield and record a maximum was Chelsea, and if you discount the 4 goals they plundered that day, Liverpool’s defensive record at home would read played 13, conceded 1. Possibly the best defensive statistics I have ever seen from a side at this stage in a Premiership season.

A lot of things have to go perfectly if we are to record a double over The Reds. Gerrard will have to be marshalled well, the crowd will have to be frustrated, we cannot give away free kicks around the edge of our box, and we must overcome an absolutely bewildering jinx which seems to suggest that we are simply incapable of winning games in the North West of England. We have lost on 9 of the last 10 visits to this region of the country.

Darren Bent is set to make his second appearance at Anfield within 4 days. If we had been told last week that Bent would score during the course of one of these 2 appearances, I think that most real Addicks would join me in hoping that the goal was scored in a Charlton shirt rather than an England shirt. Hopefully he has been saving his Anfield goals for this encounter.

Our official website claims that Curbishley is likely to revert to a 4-5-1 formation, thus leaving our newly capped hitman up front alone this weekend. Presumably Marcus Bent will drop back to the right side of midfield, and the other midfield positions will remain unchanged unless Smertin can convince Curbishley that he has sufficiently recovered from his knee injury.
Since Spector replaced Powell at left back we have kept three clean sheets in 4 games, so he looks set to continue alongside Perry, Hreidarsson, and Young in the Addicks rearguard, and the latter of those defenders will have a job on his hands neutralising a resurgent Harry Kewell. He is the main source of crosses into the box, and with a player like Peter Crouch waiting in the middle it’s critical that Young manages to stay close to Kewell and prevent him swinging balls over.

Personally I would like to see us go 4-4-2 rather than 4-5-1. We all saw first hand how isolated Bent was up front on Wednesday, and the same thing will happen again tomorrow unless he has someone alongside him to win his knockdowns and anticipate his movement off the ball.
It’s likely that we will be under heavy pressure for long periods of this game, so the defence will need time to recuperate when they do manage to clear our lines. Up front alone, Bent is limited as to how well he can hold the ball up, and I fear that without support we will be unable to give our defence the time they need to reorganise themselves between Liverpool attacks.

The only real Liverpool team news is that both Carragher and Fowler return to the squad after missing the home game with Manchester City, and Finnan is due a late fitness test on the neck injury which stopped him representing his country in midweek. Morientes and Crouch look set to continue up front.

It’s been a good while since we recorded a famous away result in the league. The 1-1 draw against Chelsea was an excellent point of course, but it wasn’t a victory. I can’t remember the last time we recorded an away win against a side in the Premiership’s top three.
Live on Prem Plus tomorrow we have a chance to spring a major surprise, and a result of any kind would serve as a huge confidence booster going into the last 10 games. It’s well documented how adamant the squad are that they aren’t going to suffer the usual end-of-season slump, this is an ideal chance to prove just how committed we are to a big finale.

Cynic Athletic’s Prediction – 1-0 Defeat (Crouch)


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